Black fish: how whales and researchers form groups

The eight of us met on Monday, December 2 for a second attempt to create a research group in primary care at University of Limerick. Our discussions brought us to whales and we found ourselves surprised about how they form groups – similar to ours.
Whales form natural groups and families. If you put them together in captivity and expect them to act as a group, they won’t. It’s not natural. What we learned from today’s meeting of the primary mental healthcare research group is that researchers are not so different than whales. If you put them together in a room and expect them to act as a team, they won’t. Social psychology teaches us that people need to have a vision to identify with. Group cohesion can be strengthened by promoting common goals, something that all can identify with. Organizers of the st patrick’s parade in Belfast know it well. They give a tricolored ribbon to all paraders. The ribbon makes them feel part of the parade.
After brief introductions of group members and a lunch with our PI, we went on with finding out how we can help to improve primary care. Our key research question: “what is the role of primary care in managing mental and substance use disorders?” is addressed by the current projects:

Towards early intervention for youth mental health in primary care: a mixed methods study from two perspectives
PINTA – Psychosocial interventions for problem alcohol use among problem drug users: controlled feasibility study in primary care
SPIRIT – Supporting practice integration with research and integration with information technology
EMMES – Establishing minimum medical education support standards
OPTIMIST – Towards optimum mental disorders treatment: a mixed methods study in general practice

For these questions, we use key methodological approaches:
  • Health services research
  • Epidemiology
  • Qualitative and mixed methods
  • Systematic and non-systematic reviews of literature
  • Training and education


Researching primary health in worsening economic situation is becoming increasingly difficult. Through pooling our resources we can make it easier and more effective.

Interested in knowing more about how whales form groups in nature compared to captivity?
check out: http://blackfishmovie.com/
http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/blog/oceans/blackfish-movie-when-whales-turn-killers-20130724